In stark contrast to the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations that all people over the age of two wear a mask indoors to mitigate transmission of SARS-COV-2, the sections of its website dedicated to seasonal influenza do not recommend wearing masks to prevent it from spreading.
Since the battle over mask mandates is most intense with regard to schools, it’s crucial to point out the pediatric mortality rate derived from the CDC’s estimate of flu mortality is comparable to its estimate of COVID-19 mortality among children. The CDC attributes 542 deaths to COVID among those aged 0-17 total over the past 18 months, while estimating influenza deaths for the six-month 2019-2020 season at 486, as of this writing. Assuming these numbers are fairly accurate, this means the risk of flu-related death for children and teens is greater than for COVID.
While CDC Web pages dedicated to COVID-19 often include a banner photo of someone in a mask, this isn’t common in the influenza section of the website. Masks also seem nowhere to be found among CDC recommendations on flu prevention for those who aren’t health workers. Instead, “to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu,” they suggest getting the flu vaccine, “staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent handwashing.”
Compare that to its guidance, updated in August, for COVID-19 mitigation in K-12 schools at the very top of the page: “CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” Universal masking is also the third bullet point under “key takeaways.”
One might argue the flu vaccines are more effective than the COVID vaccines and therefore masks aren’t needed. But the CDC notes that a meta-analysis that included data from randomized controlled trials, the most robust form of medical research, found flu vaccines to be in the range of 51-67 percent effective at preventing flu infection. One RCT even found it to be as low as 16 percent in a season of low influenza infection rates. Influenza transmission cannot be prevented by vaccination because vaccination is only about 60 percent effective at preventing flu illness.
Wouldn’t “layered prevention strategies” of the kind the CDC demands for COVID be called for to address a dangerous pathogen for which vaccines aren’t highly effective?
If masks are so effective at mitigating respiratory virus transmission, as Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky have told us, why would our public officials not recommend masks for the flu? Influenza is a respiratory virus that spreads similarly to SARS-COV-2. A 2016 study comparing detection of viable influenza virus in 53 subjects with confirmed influenza A infection found 22 (42 percent) produced aerosols with viable virus during exhalation.
Another study by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety developed a two-stage cyclone bioaerosol sampler to separate aerosol particles into different sizes. Researchers discovered that the H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses were “most often found in the 1–4 µm and less than 1 µm size fractions” (emphasis added), meaning they were airborne, as “particles less than 10 µm in diameter can remain airborne for hours and are easily inhaled deeply into the respiratory tract.”
In other words, this evidence indicates the flu can be spread just by breathing. Research on aerosols carrying SARS-COV-2 also suggest it also could be spread by breathing. Also, like health experts have been so often quoted as saying regarding COVID, asymptomatic spread is possible (although probably greatly overestimated—the CDC admitted as much earlier this year in a report of school transmission).
According to the authors of a study of flu infection among health-care workers and patients during 2015/16 and 2016/17 influenza seasons, “a significant proportion of individuals shed influenza virus without harboring any symptoms, thereby potentially exposing their vicinity.” Roughly 8 percent of flu-positive swabs were collected among patients on days without symptoms, and asymptomatic transmission seemed “likely” in one cluster of infections. The CDC itself admits, “You may be able to spread flu to someone else before you know you are sick.”
So if the flu can be transmitted asymptomatically, it’s more dangerous to kids than COVID, and its vaccine allows for ample “breakthrough infections,” why don’t they recommend masks for the flu?
Perhaps it’s because masks as a mitigation strategy for the flu had already been studied in controlled trials, and the results didn’t reinforce their use. In 2019 the World Health Organization listed its top ten studies on masks and hand hygiene for flu mitigation, and although all had problems such as insufficient sample size, none found strong evidence for masks’ efficacy (see page 25, Table 7).
If the CDC were to start pushing masks for flu mitigation, the public and corporate media (albeit reluctantly) would have to address the lack of evidence in influenza transmission studies for mask-wearing. People would then start to wonder why, if the evidence of masks for flu is shaky, we should believe masks work for COVID.
Those who claim “the science supports masks” for COVID prevention should also be demanding masks for flu prevention. After all, if “masks save lives,” and “if we can save even one life, then it’s worth it,” as the proponents of universal masking tell us, then indoor masks every flu season for everyone ages two and over should be not just on the table but promoted emphatically and relentlessly by our public health institutions.
The fact that it isn’t should give anyone, particularly parents with schoolchildren enduring strict mask mandates, great pause. Is the CDC the same trustworthy organization people looked to for science-driven, sensible guidance before the pandemic hit? The same one that assures them child deaths from the flu are “relatively rare”?
Or has it been corrupted by all the money and power that pandemic hysteria allows them to tap into? Is it really “following the science,” or are health officials selectively applying “The Science” based on what supports the their own financial interests or the controlling political party’s narrative and agenda? Can we really say the CDC isn’t politically biased when its director has also declared gun control a “public health crisis”?
The CDC’s differing recommendations for respiratory viruses that can be dangerous and spread similarly suggest masks today are less about public health than about public manipulation. The only question left is how long we’ll put up with it.